About 200 residents of Chitipa and Karonga in northern Malawi have rejected the re-naming of the road linking the two districts after President Bingu wa Mutharika.
In a petition made available to The Nation, the residents, led by Ndamyo Mwenitete, Steven Simsokwe and Innocent Mwalwanda, are asking government to listen more to peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s voices Ã¢â‚¬Å“than politicians disguised as chiefs.Ã¢â‚¬Â
But architect of the re-naming process, Senior Chief Kalonga of Karonga, on Sunday said anybody not satisfied with the naming of the road as Bingu Highway should go to him (the chief) and not newspapers.
In January this year, some chiefs from Karonga and Chitipa reportedly agreed to name the road after Mutharika, arguing that since the country attained independence from Britain in 1964, he is the only leader who has succeeded in constructing the road linking Chitipa and Karonga to the rest of the country.
The road is expected to be completed by October 31 2012, according to the Roads Authority. The Chinese Government, which took over the project from Taiwan in 2008, has so far pumped $70 million (about K10 billion) into the project.
But in their 10-paged petition, the residents argue they consider the re-naming process Ã¢â‚¬Å“as an insult and inappropriateÃ¢â‚¬Â as it was only a chief and ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials who initiated the whole process.
The petitioners claim Senior Chief Kalonga failed to consult stakeholders such as the clergy, civil society groups and even Paramount Chief Kyungu.
When called on Sunday, Kalonga did not commit himself on whether he consulted his subjects or not before making the pronouncement.
Said the traditional leader: “You yourself [do] not come from Karonga. How can they [the petitioners] come to a young man like you? I cannot answer that one.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The petitionersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ concerns about the proposed name of the road come barely four weeks after PeopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Party deputy secretary general Harry Mkandawire accused DPP regional governor Frank Mwenefumbo of influencing the chiefs to name the road after Mutharika.
Mwenefumbo is on record as having said while it is true he hosted a beach party for the chiefs at his lodge, he never influenced them to make the decision.